Conversations Irish parishes need to have — Tony Butler
I thank Pat Seaver for his challenging words (posting below). I believe he may have started an important conversation, one that is being avoided and indeed with other necessary conversations that are fear-full.
What happens if the present charade of First Holy Communion is questioned? Full church for the day, tiaras, face tans, videos, hotel booked, guests invited and indeed as happened last year with regards to the Sacrament of Confirmation, a glass coach with horses brought down from N.Ireland at some cost to carry the young person to church?
The following and subsequent Sundays? How many of the parents and the children who received on that First Communion Day are present with the parish community celebrating the Risen Christ? It is a charade and it must come an end. Indeed that ending may be in sight as the numbers attending mass and sacraments are in deep decline. I have spoken of this to other priests and usually the response is, ” ah yes….but…..” Others will say you cannot deny anyone the sacraments, I am not at all saying the sacrament be denied, I do not agree at all with denying the sacrament, the Eucharist was never intended to be used/misused as a penalty. But the game-playing, the charade cannot continue. Anyone willing to enter into conversation on this point, any parish priest, parent, teacher, bishop, anyone?
May I issue an invitation to another conversation? Parish membership.
If everyone in your parish geographical area and those who attend by choice from other parishes were written to or contacted and asked to affirm that they wish to be counted as being members of the sacramental worshiping community known as the parish of X.
Those who reply agreeing that yes they wish to be counted and known as members, these are now the parish community. If out of 500 hundred people written to 150 reply in the affirmative, those 150 together with the ordained make up the Church in that area. Those who do not reply or those who reply negatively are not nor ever outside the mission of the Church.
From those who affirm publicly that they wish to belong the Parish Pastoral Council is elected – but given teeth! with responsibility, empowered to minister in parish areas of Finance, Education and in all other areas that can be given to them to enable the pastor to be just that, pastor, priest and Presider of Eucharist.
A third – and for now final conversation!
A lady I know of tells of her story of meeting a gay man for the first time – her own son. She had listened over the years to what the Church was saying about homosexuality, particularly she remembered that word used ” disordered.” Now in knowing and meeting her son as homosexual all the stereotyping she had of gay people was challenged. When her son told his story to her she was confused and admits that she cried and for a long time kept this to herself.
So many questions arised for her. But now being able to ” put a face ” on a gay man for the first time she knew the risk her son had taken in telling her and also she began to understand that he took the risk of losing her love and that of his father, this is a real risk for any gay man or woman.
My invitation to conversation here is acknowledge the presence of gay men and women in our worshipping communities, to thank them for their presence, for all of us to recognise that human sexuality in all its richness is a gift from God and to issue a welcome and indeed ask forgiveness from those who were told or felt they were not wanted within the People of God.